British Steel Corp v Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Co Ltd [1984]

British Steel Corp v Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Co Ltd [1984] 1 All ER 504 is a notable English contract law case that revolves around the concept of agreement.

In the case, steel nodes were delivered to the defendants following a letter of intent expressing the intention to purchase. However, at that point, no formal contract had been concluded due to disagreements over the defendants' terms, and negotiations were prolonged. The parties failed to reach an agreement on issues such as progress payments and liability for late delivery. Despite the lack of a finalised contract, the delivered nodes were accepted.

Justice Robert Goff presented three possible alternatives to analyse the situation. Firstly, he considered whether the letter of intent could be deemed an executory contract. However, this option was dismissed since negotiations were still ongoing. Secondly, he explored the idea that the defendants' terms constituted a standing offer accepted by the commencement of the work. However, this was deemed presumptuous. Lastly, Justice Goff settled on the third alternative, suggesting that the best solution was to allow for restitutionary recovery for the value of the work done. This approach focused on acknowledging the benefit received by the defendants at the expense of the claimants.

This case highlights the court's flexibility in finding equitable solutions when faced with complex contract situations where a formal agreement is absent or disputed. The emphasis on restitutionary recovery in this case underscores the court's commitment to ensuring fairness and preventing unjust enrichment in contractual relationships.
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